Crazy, I know, but at the ancient age of 20, I’m learning new things. Including HTML (beyond the scope of MySpace glory). I started volunteering at the William Byrd Community House after writing an article about them. I applied to work on the farmlet (because I like plants?), but the volunteer coordinator took one look at my resume and assigned me to be their social media consultant instead. Whoa. Big, scary job.
She had this wacky expectation that I could fix their outdated website, homogenize their blogs and revamp their social media strategy to attract new donors. I’m horrible at saying no...so I had to learn to code. Fast. So I did. Using Google, common sense, Code Academy and a whole lot of trial-and-error (because for some reason, those tutorials are never quite right).
Coding, for those who are not in a field where the skill is a focus, requires patience. And attention to detail. The big issue is getting your syntax right. Put one angle bracket out of place and you could end up staring at a blank screen.
Fortunately, I realized there is some overlap with a skill developed in my area of study: copy editing. I love copy editing; finding and fixing errors is extremely satisfying. Apparently, this skill works for both first drafts of manuscripts as well as web pages.
If you look hard enough, many disciplines share traits, and it is not as intimidating to tackle something that you might think is beyond your range.
I’m using my snazzy new skills to eat up my free time because I found I enjoy it - and to be more efficient with my internship. I’ve gotten a lot of great payout from learning one new thing as a volunteer.
Thus, I just want to say:
1. Volunteering is an amazing thing. It’s the easiest way to get job experience in a field you want to enter.
2. Learning new skills is an amazing thing. Just because I haven’t been coding since I was 12 doesn’t mean I can’t pick it up with a little focus and effort.
3. Challenging yourself is an amazing thing. I feel pretty great for accomplishing what was needed of me instead of turning it away because I didn’t have the right tools on hand in that moment.
Overall, if you don’t have it, go find it - whatever “it” is.
I think I’m going to use this experience to motivate myself to create a “bucket list” of professional and personal goals. To be totally cheesy, but oh-so-apt, I can do it.
You can do it. Seriously.
Article by Lauren N. Colie, Print/Online Journalism and English major at Virginia Commonwealth University. Lauren is Managing Editor of Auctus, VCU’s Undergraduate Research Journal, as well as a Lead Teaching Assistant for a research-writing course. She recently joined the Science Matters team as a special student correspondent.
Image: Mike Licht, NotionsCapital.com